Any Rookie of the Year fan can relate to the intense desire to step up on a pitcher’s mound and throw a fastball into the catcher’s mitt at a professional baseball game. Last year Ben Shlesinger of Silver Spring, fulfilled that childhood fantasy and threw the first pitch at a Nationals game during The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Grand Slam Sunday: Jewish Community Day at Nationals Park. He was selected to do the honors because of his longtime volunteer work with The Jewish Federation.
As Federation’s third annual Grand Slam Sunday approaches on Sunday, August 27, bringing together over 1,500 community members, we thought we’d talk to Ben about his unforgettable experience at last year’s Grand Slam Sunday and what he’s most looking forward to at this year’s game against The Mets.
GatherDC Staff: Let’s get right to the question we’re dying to know. What did the field feel like?
Ben: Ha! The field felt, for the lack of a better term, professional. It was all soft grass and the mound had a nice sturdiness to it. Much nicer than the fields and mounds I used to practice on.
GatherDC Staff: What does it sound like on the field? Can you hear distinct voices or is it all muffled? Is it super loud?
Ben: I could definitely hear distinct voices while on the field. I could also hear the announcer well. But you tune out the sort of background noise from the crowd. I totally know now that a player could hear me if I heckled them from up close.
GatherDC Staff: How did you prepare to throw the pitch?
Ben: It actually took a ton of practice. I went out to a field nearby my house and practiced a lot, throwing ball after ball. I was less concerned about speed and was just focusing on accuracy and getting the ball far enough to reach the catcher.
GatherDC Staff: When you threw the pitch, how did it go?
Ben: Well, it turns out the field I practiced on was a lot smaller than the real thing. So I don’t think they’re going to recruit me to their bullpen. But, honestly, just being out on the field and seeing the players was the best part.
GatherDC Staff: Did you meet any players?
Ben: I got to meet Blake Teinin, who caught the ball I threw. He then signed it and let me keep it which was a big deal since I’m an avid autograph collector.
GatherDC Staff: Do you think there is something inherently Jewish about baseball?
Ben: This is difficult to say. I don’t know if there’s anything inherently Jewish about baseball, but I feel like Jews inherently like baseball. To me baseball and Jews are just two things that go together naturally.
GatherDC Staff: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s game?
Ben: I love the community feel of the event. There’s a lot of pride in the air both for our home team and for our Jewish community. People are mingling and enjoying the game and it’s just a really fun day where all feel welcome.
If you’re interested in joining the excitement at this year’s Grand Slam Sunday, individual tickets are available now starting at the discounted group price of $25 and include access to pre-game fun.